It’s one of those thoughts we all have even though we’re pretty sure we shouldn’t. When we step out of the boat, it’s not that we believe God can’t answer our prayers. But what if, for reasons known only to Him, he chooses not to. What if God wants me to fail?
Job boldly put it out there: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15) I really don’t want to die. I don’t want to fail. Yet the Bible is full of faithful believers called to suffer: Job, Paul, Peter, Stephen — and countless millions of martyrs throughout history.
Now that I’m out of the boat, what if He chooses to let me drown for His greater glory? Will I be OK with that?
There Is No Faith without the Risk of Failure
As most readers know, we’ve recently stepped out of the boat and into the unknown as we seek to build a life of ministry helping people grow by connecting real life with real faith.
It’s scary stuff. I start out pretty boldly each morning. But usually by lunch time, I’m feeling that anxious war within. And the one question that continues to nag at our souls as we pray for God to be glorified is this: I know He can but that doesn’t mean He will. After all, what makes me any better than all those other more faithful ones who perished in His service.
Now before some of you accuse me of being morose or depressed, we should also acknowledge the bountiful promises of God:
- My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)
- Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
- Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Matthew 11:24)
Both messages come from Scripture. God is good. Always. And sometimes he chooses to let us fail. So we’re left to reconcile these two as best we can. We pray boldly while we prepare our hearts for His sovereign answers.
A Few Tips to Keep Our Focus
Here are a few steps I’ve found while on this faith journey. Maybe they can be of help to you:
- Seek God’s Glory Alone. It’s only when we truly desire His best that we can truly say, “He gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” When we reach that place of humility before Him, one is truly just as acceptable as the other. I’m not saying I have arrived, just that we should all be trying to get there.
- Ask in Faith without Doubting. Why? We’re told to do it. “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting.” (James 1:6) The asking is our task. The answering is God’s. All too often we assume his role in the process then wonder why we feel overwhelmed. We forget too quickly that it is God’s glory on the line — not ours — when His people are in need.
- Pray Big Prayers. My friend P. Andrew Sandlin keeps reminding me of this need, though I confess I struggle to understand all it means. I know it means to go boldly before the throne of grace and “claim the crown, through Christ, my own.” But it also means my prayers must be about the Big Kingdom picture and not just about my petty needs.
- Train Yourself to Surrender. Paul warns us that we’ll get a good workout becoming godly. He wasn’t kidding. Often it’s laying down our own pride that takes the most diligent effort. Start by making it a morning habit to crucify yourself, take up your cross, and follow.
- Ever Be Willing to Answer “Yes.” What if He does chooses to let you fail, will you still trust Him? That is the question He wants answered. Do you trust Him enough to lay your future on the altar and lift the knife in obedience to Him? What if he doesn’t provide a substitute? When the temptation comes to draw back in fear — for that is what it is — will you hold to who He is or flee to who you think you are?
I wonder sometimes if Abraham told Sara about God’s call to sacrifice Isaac — the future of their family. If he did, how did she handle it? I tend to think he kept it to himself. I understand why. It’s hard to let God strip us of who we think we are. But it’s only through the testing that we become as gold. The fires of faith make us jewels fit for the King. There is no other way to be found worthy of the high calling that is in Christ Jesus.
Maybe you’re trying to do too much. Stand down. And watch God step up — or not. It’s His glory. It’s His world. It’s His call.
And we must be OK with that.
Lest that stark reality tempt you to lose heart:
The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chron. 16:9 NKJV)
God is constantly on the prowl for the chance to show His power on behalf of those who are willing to answer simply: “Yes.”
No matter what.
Do you ever struggle with the fear of following Christ into the unknown? What thoughts do you have about this tension that comes from surrendering yourself completely to the outcome of God’s choosing? Share your story or comment here to help us all grow.